Friday, December 31, 2010

Seeing Stars in L.A.

(Los Angeles) - I am not often star struck, but I admit I lost my composure a little bit this afternoon at the TCU Rose Bowl pep rally. I was standing around outside the Staples Center just taking it all in, when I saw a man standing on a planter, rising above the crowd. It was CBS News living legend Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation,” former anchor of the CBS Evening News and TCU alumnus.

How large a figure is Mr. Schieffer at TCU? The journalism school there is the Schieffer School of Journalism. He’s an icon.
For me, it was like seeing one of the Beatles in the 60’s or something. I lost my mind and made a bee line for him. “Mr. Schieffer, would mind if I take a photo with you?” I have been told more than once to be careful if you meet your heroes because they can disappoint you. Not Schieff! He smiled and said “Certainly.” He let me tell him my little story about how I spent a lifetime working in local news and I thanked him enthusiastically. What a highlight for me!

It’s been a strange, “local news” couple of days.
For example, there’s Fritz Coleman. According to the enormous billboard hovering over Hollywood Avenue, he’s a comedian and he’s a weatherman. I’m guessing if you live in southern California, Mr. Coleman is a celebrity. He’s certainly on the local news and apparently he’s a comedian. And a weatherman. And….He’s in an out-of-focus photo with my wife and me!

We underappreciated it at the moment, but grasped it a little more when we saw the billboard.

Meanwhile, back at the pep rally, where a sea of purple flooded Nokia Plaza…

We were minding our own business standing under a statue of Magic Johnson when we saw a familiar face: Gerry May, the anchor at the ABC station back home in Shreveport. He is a huge TCU fan and I knew he would be here, but to be standing within 30 feet of him and his wife was just a crazy coincidence. So, of course we posed for photos.

I know, I know…when you’re in Hollywood, these are not the kinds of celebrities you expect to see. Movie stars, TV stars; who knows you will see? How about The Man of Steel?
I’m still recovering from my close encounter with network news royalty. I need to try to get the stars out of my eyes. Seeing Schieffer was, with respect to my composure, was like being exposed to kryptonite.

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Could It Be a Sign?

(Hollywood, CA) – We hit Hollywood Boulevard this morning and saw the things you’re supposed to see when you’re in Hollywood. Like the sign. You know a sign is something special when there are signs giving you directions to the sign. Fortunately, we didn’t need directions, because this is what you see from our hotel.

Other things we saw: Badgers.
Yes, Wisconsin fans found their way to Hollywood, finally. Some of them are trying to taunt purple-clad TCU faithful, but the Frogs aren’t taking the bait. Not only are Frog fans nice by nature, they also remember that their team got crushed in the Fiesta Bowl last year. So, there’s not much smack talk out on the streets, no matter how hard a bellicose Badger may try to start some.
As we made our way down the Walk of Stars, dead center in front of the legendary Grauman’s Chinese theater: Shreveport people! TCU parents who have a daughter the same age as ours, who we’ve known for more than fifteen years. We were thrilled to see one another. They expressed similar sentiments about wandering around feeling a little lost, not really knowing anybody. I started a sentence, “If we were on an LSU trip….” And he finished it: “…we’d know a hundred people.” Yep, I know just how you feel.

We start football-related activities in earnest later today. There’s a TCU-themed New Year’s Eve party tonight in our hotel. No Badgers allowed.

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Burbank, Badgers and Boardwalks

(Burbank, CA) – Following the TCU football team to the Rose Bowl has been sort of surreal. I’ve felt like an immigrant trying to acclimate to new environs where everything seems eerily similar to home, but slightly altered. Before our daughter decided to attend TCU, we had no allegiance to it. While we are thrilled to be here and to have an excuse to go to the Rose Bowl, there’s really very little emotion involved. If we were on this trip with LSU, we would probably know as many as fifty people, possibly more. Here, we know about four and we haven’t seen any of them yet.
So, on day one, we went our own way. Our first stop was to NBC Burbank. A former co-worker, Rich DeMuro, has recently landed there and seemed eager to show us around. We went into studios for “Access Hollywood” and the news. We got to sit at the anchor desk.

The Tonight Show is on hiatus for the holidays, so there was no Jay Leno for us, but we got to see the place.

The highlight of the afternoon, though, was catching up with Rich over an executive-type lunch at Morton’s. We hung around the newsroom for a while and talked with a couple of Rich’s colleagues, then hit the Pacific Coast Highway.

Our goal was to see the sun set over the Pacific and we achieved it. This isn’t something you get a chance to witness in Louisiana, and it was worth the drive and the time spent.

It really was a peaceful day, just my wife and me strolling along the Venice Boardwalk. There’s a homogenization of humanity there.
Tourists, street vendors, even a freak show. What more could you ask?

It’s interesting to observe the travel dynamic among Rose Bowl visitors. We have noticed that TCU people by and large have congregated in Hollywood, while Santa Monica and points south seem to have attracted throngs of Wisconsin fans. We were unintentionally behind enemy lines, so my wife decided to consort with a few of them before she was overrun by Badgers.

It didn’t matter if the visitors were wearing red or purple, everyone had traveled a long way to spend the New Year’s weekend in southern California. Most of us were fascinated that from one spot on the coast you could look west to see the beach and the ocean, then simply turn around and see snow-capped mountains.

It’s hard to judge which group of fans seem more wrapped up in the outcome of the game. Everyone we’ve encountered is just thrilled to be at the Rose Bowl. There’s no question this trip is a real change of pace.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gone to See Granddaddy

(Hollywood, CA) – We have arrived in Hollywood in advance of the Rose Bowl. The fact that we’re here is a testament to the oddest confluence of circumstances. Our daughter is a freshman at TCU, and the fortunes of football have led the Horned Frogs to the “Granddaddy of them all.” (I have friends who will cringe upon reading that. It has become so cliché that we tend to avoid using the phrase. I surrender, though, because it’s ON THE TICKETS).

The game typically matches up the champions of the Pac 10 against the champions of the Big 10, but the Pac 10 champ, Oregon, is playing for the national championship. That opened a spot for the next-highest ranked team which was the unlikely, undefeated Horned Frogs.
Seeing this as a one-in-a-lifetime excuse to visit with Granddaddy, we jumped on a plane and soared toward Los Angeles.

We arrived very early on a Thursday morning. So early, in fact, that our daughter the TCU student hadn’t started her journey before we arrived at LAX. See, she wanted to travel with her friends. So, they’re going by car. Sounds like fun, I suppose; but I don’t envy the 24-hour-plus drive. So, while she’s burning up the road somewhere in Texas, we’re secured in our room looking at the Hollywood Hills.

There’s a lot to be seen in southern California. Got to get moving.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

These Yellow Jackets Have No Buzz

The extended Christmas weekend was capped off, appropriately I suppose, with football. We made our way to the Independence Bowl and watched the Air Force Academy hand Georgia Tech its sixth consecutive bowl loss. Almost nobody from the state of Georgia was there to see it. Not only was the fan response from Atlanta essentially non-existent, a snowstorm in the southeast put a white, frozen blanket over the travel plans of dozens of Yellow Jacket faithful. So, when a B-52 flew over the proceedings moments before kick-off, the stadium appeared to be about half full. This was the 35th Independence Bowl. I’ve attended all 35, and I can’t remember a time when the stadium had less energy. It was just strange.
My wife, who has been to a couple of dozen Independence Bowls herself, hurt her back putting Christmas decorations away and didn’t make it to the game. My daughter, with a friend in tow, proved to be good company.

The ladies were under-prepared for the cold weather, though. Fortunately, we had club tickets which granted us access to the indoor facilities, as well as food and hot chocolate.

The family dedicated a lot of time to this game over the past several days, so we were emotionally invested in the total presentation.
From her perch on the sofa, my wife said it didn’t look or sound bad. The game was competitive, but the most suspense came for a wayward bird. The Air Force Academy’s trained falcon flew away during pre-game ceremonies. It was finally found in downtown Shreveport and returned safe and sound to its handlers. It’s a Christmas miracle.
We’ll put a bow on this Independence Bowl and hope that next year’s participants respond with a little more enthusiasm.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bands, Birds, Bugs and Balloons

Another day of Independence Bowl related activities led my daughter to spend more time with young children. This time it involved inflatables and balloon hats as she and the other ambassadors helped occupy enthusiastic young fans during the “family fun” event. There wasn’t a lot of jostling or elbowing for space in the air-cushioned recreation areas. The combination of Christmas weekend and wicked weather across the south is taking its toll on attendance.
The long-planned Battle of the Bands, anticipated on the heels of family fun, had to be slightly delayed because the musicians from Georgia Tech experienced significant travels delays.

They made it, though, as did the symbolic lead vehicle for the Institute’s athletic enterprises, The Ramblin’ Wreck.

Once things got rolling, musically speaking, the party got lively. The rousing sounds of brass filled the air, as did Mardi Gras beads from local krewes. This gave our ambassadors, which now included a late-arriving close friend, an opportunity to be wacky.

Later, the ladies handed out beads to band members and helped served dinner to them, ambassadorially of course.

My daughter has had a bit of fun with the bowl activities, and they’ve kept her busy if not entertained. Hey, at least she hasn’t been bored.
Fortunately for me, the team mascots accompanied the bands. This means a two-for-one sale on adding to the photo collection. You can’t go wrong with a bird and a bug.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Come Get in the Bloody Christmas Photo, Already.

The line of the night at the Annual Family Christmas Eve Feed was uttered by one of my cousins. We were attempting to round up everybody for a photo with my father, who is the last survivor of fourteen brothers and sisters. My cousin said “If you have Rebouche blood, come get in the picture. If you slept with someone with Rebouche blood, then stay over there.” Given those precise parameters, a group dutifully assembled.

There he is, surrounded by his son, his grandchildren and a variety of nieces and nephews. Sadly, one of the cousins and his adult offspring had left before the photo opportunity, but this will do for now.
My son actually showed up, disheveled and hungry. It was the first time he had seen his sister since she came home from school for the holidays.

They talked congenially while consuming alarming quantities of my cousins’ cooking. It was old-school food, too: salt, grease, butter, sugar. It had all the bad stuff that makes it taste so good.

When we arrived, my daughter noted the size of the plates which were the biggest she had ever seen. This encouraged her to load up with grub. As she sat at the table, she laughed at herself but never doubted her ability or her resolve to eat it all. She did it, too and may have gone back for more.
This made her grandfather, who has been known to annihilate a platter of food in his day, very proud.
I‘m not sure he could pinpoint the parentage of all of his grandnieces and grandnephews in the house, but he knew they all belonged. He knew where the gigantic vat of Cajun rice was, too and he visited it early and often. It was funny to hear him say the “dirty rice” as he calls it was “just like the old people used to make.” I mean, he’s 84. We all know what he meant. After all, isn’t Christmas about being young at heart? Especially if that heart is pumping Rebouche blood; that way, you get to be in the picture. Everybody else, grab a piece of pecan pie and take a seat on the sofa.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas of Independence

Christmas Eve finds most of the immediate family wearing double duty red. Not only is it the traditional color of the holiday, but it is also prominent around the Independence Bowl. Somehow, my wife and daughter have become immersed in bowl-related activities. The morning started with champagne-based eye openers, mimosas and poinsettias.

The occasion was ladies’ day out, an event which my wife co-chaired. She gamely faced the challenge of keeping wives of coaches and other athletic officials from the participating schools entertained on Christmas weekend. The ladies from Georgia Tech and the Air Force Academy seemed to have a nice attitude about the proceedings, even though it is self-evident that that are many other places they’d rather be.

With the game scheduled for the Monday after Christmas, it proved impossible to avoid spending the holiday on the road in an unfamiliar setting. My wife and those surrounding her set out to smother them with kindness (and a little more champagne) to take the edge off. It seemed to work out as almost everyone appeared to genuinely make the best of things.

I somehow became convinced to call BINGO for the ladies. There were valuable prizes involved. I tried to keep ‘em laughing. I’m not so sure about all that, but they did leave my portion of the event with armloads of free stuff and that can’t be all bad.

Concurrently, the daughter was conveniently corralling youngsters at kids’ day out.
This is part of her duty as an Independence Bowl Ambassador. The night before, she and the other ambassadors got to hang around with the football teams. She is notorious for her discomfort around small children, so today’s event was an exercise in personal growth. I asked her if the kids were well behaved. She paused, took a deep breath and said “most of them.” Again, it’s all about attitude. Hers was positive, for the most part. There are a couple more days of ambassadorial duties ahead, including the game itself. She’s staying busy and that counts for something.
Until the game rolls around, we will keep the spirit alive and keep digging through the closets and the drawers looking for something else red to wear.
The bowl game has a new mascot this year, which of course means a photo op:

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hoopy Holidays

There was a time not so long ago that anything that even resembled a legitimate sporting event in town was circled in red on my calendar. I would anticipate it for days, exhort people to attend even get a little frustrated or angry if they had no interest. I wanted so badly to live in an engaged, legitimate sports city.
I guess I’ve surrendered or something. I got a late-afternoon text message from a co-worker asking, “Hey, isn’t the the LSU basketball game tonight?” I answered, “Um, is it? Maybe. Yeah.” It turns out the rare North Louisiana LSU appearance was just a couple of hours away. I had to talk myself and, somewhat more challenging, my wife into driving across the river to go to the game. I suppose everything you need to know about it can be summed up by this: We bought tickets about five minutes before tip-off and scored these seats.

Ultimately, I said to her, “If I don’t go to that game, I will feel like a huge hypocrite.” So, to the arena we went and we really had a good time. The game was entertaining. LSU’s opponent, Wichita State, hit a big three-pointer with seven seconds left to win by a point.

The crowd, though somewhat small, was enthusiastic. We won a $50.00 gift certificate from LSU’s on-line sports shop, so if you add up the cost of tickets, concessions and gasoline we just about broke even on the evening.
We are well acquainted with a number of current LSU students, all of whom are home for the holidays and none of whom attended the game. That confuses and slightly saddens me. But since I had to convince myself to go, I guess it’s best if I keep my mouth shut about that. Nobody like a holiday hypocrite.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

But the House Had Been So Tidy

I never imagined I would be so happy to see such a monstrous mess filling the family home. At the foot of the stairs is a haphazard array of suitcases, handbags and various articles of clothing.
This means our daughter is home for the holidays.
She arrived in the early evening on Friday, and shortly thereafter the house was filled with familiar faces finally converging from far-flung places. At one moment, an assembly on the sofa represented four universities in three states. It’s a testament to enduring friendship that despite their separation they remain close and came together as quickly as they could.

Stories were swapped; laughter filled the air and celebratory treats piled up in the kitchen at a remarkable rate. The sound of their voices was like a sweet symphony to my wife and me as we not-so-discreetly listened from an adjacent room. The raconteurs nattered on into the night, learning of one another’s academic and social adventures. As college freshmen, it’s all new to them and this lent a sense of shared delight as the tales unfolded with steadily increasing mirth.
They clung to one another throughout the night, the familiarity of home and firm friendship no doubt soothing the lingering anxiety of freshman finals and myriad first semester stressors.
To a near observer, it seemed as though it was good to just be girls again…to eat cupcakes and cookies and to have no pressing concern beyond caloric intake.
They outlasted us by several hours, and we awoke to discover 18 and 19-year-old women laid out head-to-toe on sofas and beds. I guess they didn’t want the night to end.
Neither did we. It’s good to have them home. Happy Holidays, indeed.

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